Going Green A Sound Business Policy
Arizona Daily Star Special
More companies are making a strong case that they are "green." It seems that every manufacturer is talking about how its processes and products are preserving our planet. You would think that business in general would have a better public image because of this. But people don't seem convinced.
Ask the public about the relationship between business and the environment and the two are always portrayed at odds. What is good for the environment is seen as bad for business. What is good for business is supposedly bad for the environment. In public debate after debate, executives are perceived as wishing to avoid spending to protect the environment, because this reduces their companies' profits.
Perhaps people have a general distrust of advertising. But I believe there's a bigger reason they don't believe. They simply don't understand that doing right by the environment is a sound business strategy. Resource conservation has always been a priority for companies, but historically, they have done a terrible job of publicizing this.
An Associated Press/Stanford University poll found that 65 percent of Americans felt that U.S. businesses harmed the environment at least "moderately." Some 44 percent of respondents said they disapproved of the way businesses handled issues involving the environment. Only 7 percent said business helped the environment "a lot" or "greatly"; 62 percent characterized this support as little to none.
It is time these perceptions change. Every executive I know wants to reduce corporate energy and water usage costs so those dollars can be used to grow the business. And everyone wants a clean, safe community in which to live and work.
All businesses must become more efficient in their use of water and energy. They must examine the wide-ranging impacts of their production on the environment. If they don't, their expenses will rise dramatically. They need to cut operating costs and invest those monies in new opportunities to increase competitiveness.
This is nothing new. It's fundamental to a free-market economy. What's new is "green marketing," which needs to improve its credibility. To do this, instead of just pointing out why they are green, companies should lead consumers by example. They should model best environmental practices the public can adopt.
For instance, in our business, commercial laundry, it is a science to build the largest wash loads possible. It is a big job to match fabrics, colors, types of goods, etc. But we do it, because it makes efficient use of resources. In home laundering, these stakes are high, too. EPA estimates that washing full loads saves a family of four more than 3,400 gallons of water each year.
Postponing washing clothes at home until there are enough to build a full load can be inconvenient. But as we have seen in our business, "going green" is rarely easy. In the long run, though, at work or home, it helps save the planet and our money.
Write to Mitch Cummins at email@example.com.